K K Shanmukhan
“So, it was you”, asked Arjun, “that shot arrow on my prey?” “Yes, I did it”, answered the hunter complacently. He handed over his weapons to the huntress and continued: “And how does it become your prey?”
The cool and tranquil manner in which the hunter spoke provoked Arjun. He said: “You unlettered rogue, you do not know the rules of hunting”.
“You look a mendicant,” shot back the hunter, “doing penance in the forest. Still you were engaged in hunting, I observe.”
“Who are you, to observe and comment?” Asked Arjun in a rude voice: “I am a prince and hunting is my pastime.”
“I am but a hunter” said the hunter, laughing scornfully at Arjun and he continued: “hunting is not my pastime but profession.” Slowly and gradually an argument took place between the two leading to a fight. The hunter turned his attention to the dead animal. He beckoned his wife to join him and proceeded towards the carcass. “Stop”, shouted Arjun. “Where are you going? What are you about to do?” “Who are you to stop or interrogate me?” questioned the hunter: “I killed this swine, and I am going to take it.”
Arjun could not control himself. He prevented the progress of the hunter blocking with his blow. Warding off Arjuna’s bow, with his own, he challenged Arjun for fight. Nothing could please Arjun better. While taking position, Arjun saw the huntress murmuring something in the hunter’s ear looking at Arjun.
Arjun shot the first arrow which the hunter warded off with his sword slightly. He took another arrow and shot it which the hunter countered with his bow. Arjun was burning with anger. The fight now took a different turn. The hunter also started using arrows to counter Arjun’s attacks, which now became fiercer and he started counter attacking Arjun.
Seeing the war play going wrong, the huntress approached Arjun pleading not to fight. She told him that the hunter was not an ordinary mortal and fighting him was of no use. Arjun was angry in this intervention and he tried to push her back.
Infuriated in this action, the huntress cursed him: “O Pandava, ignoring my warning if you venture to fight him, may your quiver deliver no arrows.”
Arjun mocked her, a mere huntress and resumed to fight As he tried to draw arrows, his quiver, which supplied unending array of arrows did not contain even one. Then he took up his bow in hand and then, both started fighting with their bows. The huntress again intervened. She said: “Arjun, O prince great, this is not an ordinary hunter. Please abandon your false pride and seek truce.”
“You dirty huntress,” said Arjun, “how dare you to counsel me? And he pushed her back. Then the huntress said: “O Partha, let you lose your bow, either.”
Arjun saw to his amazement that his bow was disappeared. Then Arjun challenged the hunter for physical combat.
The combat raged very fiercely. Finally Arjun was caught in an iron clasp from which he could not free himself. The hunter held him with both the arms from behind and hurled him and threw him on the mountain head. The huntress got angry with her husband and requested him to examine Arjun. When he checked Arjun had a feeble breath. Arjun somehow gathered courage and got up. He could hardly move his limbs and muscles. He saw some wild flowers nearby. Plucking them he chanted the mantras of Lord Shiva and dedicated them on the stone nearby. All the flowers that he offered fell on the feet of the hunter. Arjun now realised that the hunter and the huntress were none other than Lord Shiva and Parvati. He fell at their feet and wept, uncontrollably. Shiva lifted him and hugged him with love. Shiva highly pleased, wished him success in the forthcoming war and gifted him with His Pasupatha arrow. The Goddess returned his bow and arrows. With the touch of the Lord, Arjun’s strength grew manifold.
(To be concluded)